Education About Asia: Online Archives

Buddhism: Footprint of the Buddha

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Reviewed by Anne E. Monius

This third episode of the widely-acclaimed BBC Long Search series, if used with some caution, can serve as a good introduction to Theravada Buddhism that is suitable for both high school and introductory college courses. Filmed entirely on location in Sri Lanka, Footprint of the Buddha conveys some of the essentials of Buddhism through the interpretive eyes of a university professor or anthropology and distinguished monk; three refuges, the four noble truths, the notable eightfold path, the two bodies of the Buddha, the importance of stories of the Buddha’s former lives, and the various practices of the laity and the monks. There is some stunning visual imagery here, but from the enormous Buddha sculptures at the ancient capital of Polonnaruva to the morning rounds of the bhikkhus walking from village to village to beg for their daily meal and the austere forest hermitages in remote corners of the island. The bulk of the video focuses on the step-by-step ritual initiation into the Sangha (spiritual community) of a young boy, the daily walk to beg alms, and the annual kathina celebration of the end of the rainy season which the laity donate new robes to the Sangha.